For me, Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all times. Watching the documentary, “The Last Dance,” brought back fond memories. This is a good time to savor memories. Some of mine include Michael Jordan.
You and I may not agree that he was the greatest but let me share my Michael Jordan experiences. Maybe then you will understand why I believe him to be the greatest.
Years ago, friends and I were such Bulls fans that we drove to Chicago to have dinner at the North LaSalle Street Michael Jordan Restaurant. We thought maybe we would even get to see one of the players. We were enjoying our meals and the basketball ambiance when there was activity at the entrance.
Then it happened. Walking through the door was MJ. It was actually Michael Jordan! We had known that it was possible. Yet we dared not dream that he would arrive while we were sitting there.
Patrons started applauding and some were cheering. Just imagine! Then, Mr. Jordan, the great Michael Jordan, moved from table to table and shook the hands of each person present.
He was smiling and charming and all that I had imagined. Then his entourage made their way through doors leading to a private area. I do admit to pinching myself to make sure that it was not a dream.
Our ride home was all Jordan and basketball. We kept saying that no one would believe us. We were smiling like loonies. We pledged that we would never wash the hands that Michael Jordan shook.
That was not my only Michael Jordan encounter. In the mid 1990’s, dear friends shared their season tickets. We would take off to the United Center and watch pure magic.
The year that I taught first grade, my students excitedly agreed to write to Michael Jordan. The idea of writing to the greatest basketball player ever inspired even the most reluctant students. Some children even included drawings of Michael on the court. I mailed the adoring and adorable packet. And, we waited.
Michel Jordan answered!. He sent a letter!
Some folks really know Illinois high school basketball history. They recall the 1960’s when Galesburg was a basketball town. Those were my years watching Coach John Thiel and basketball excellence..
Joe Morrissey, retired Register Mail sports editor, documented some of the memories of GHS basketball. In 2007, he wrote the book, “Thiel – The Silver Streak Years, Memories of a Galesburg Legend.” It was a reference for this column and my recollections.
These include Bumpy and Lincoln Nixon stories. Folks a few years older, recall the names Graning, Owen, Williams, and the Kimbrough twins. Younger fans still talk about the talent of Dale Kelley. During the era of Roland McDougald, Dave Wood, and Zack Thiel, I was living in Joliet so did not see any of those guys play.
However, one of my buddies was a lifelong Silver Streaks fan. Classmate, Emma Gene Spinks – Sargent was a Streaks supporter until she passed away in 2014.
Lifelong Streaks fan or not, I knew basketball. I knew the thrill of watching really good players. When that Michael Jordan letter arrived, I was pretty excited.
I had the letter framed so that it could be passed from hand to hand. Soon, the glass was covered with fingerprints and a few kisses. First graders who never volunteered, read the words until they had them memorized.
Michael Jordan’s letter helped my students become better readers. His points and scores were used to teach math facts. We had a great time mastering basic skills and everyone learned more about the game of basketball.
The following year, I accepted an administrative position and no longer had the joy of teaching. I took the framed letter and a souvenir Bulls shirt to display in my office. Both items served as inspirations and reminders of Michael.
I can still see MJ floating through the air. In my mind’s eye, I watch that basketball swoop across the court. I remember the children’s voices reading his letter. I can imagine Michael Jordan smiling. I can almost feel the energy of his hands shaking mine.
We may never agree on the best basketball player. I have washed my hands zillions of times since Michael Jordan shook them. The memories remind me that I touched greatness.
Now is an opportune time to savor the memories of your favorite games. It could have been on the court, field, or in a pool It might be golf, baseball, or soccer. You may prefer volleyball, tennis, or track. Remember the swish of the ball, the sound of the starting gun, or the roar of the crowds. Recall past competitions and anticipate great games and players to come. Enjoy your own times with greatness.
Naomi Law was born in Galesburg, graduated from ISU and U of I, Champaign, served as a school administrator in Joliet and Oak Park, Illinois, and now resides in Galesburg and volunteers in her community.